Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Epilog Brno

A relatively disappointing 30 cars are on the provisional entry list for the first ever 24-hour race to be held in the Czech Republic this weekend – the Creventic-organised “Epilog” Brno 24 hours. Originally scheduled to be a 12-hour race, and hence with points being awarded at the half-way point, one briefly wonders what the point is of staying up all night, if there is nothing to play for but the honour?

That said, Creventic has always been about the participation. Their emphasis has been on providing the opportunity to enable enthusiasts to race, rather than on setting up a stage for prima donnas to preen their egos or mercenary ‘win at all costs’ pot-hunters. For sure the championship positions are important, but – I hope – the joy of racing will ensure that a good race to the end takes place.

Last year’s 12-hour Epilog attracted 50 starters, and the lowest number of starters for any of Crevetic’s International Endurance Racing Series races this year has been 43 at Zandvoort. With the cancellation of the Touring Car Endurance Series (TCES) race at Meppen in Germany, Brno has now been nominated as the final points-scoring round of the TCES, but this seems not to have bolstered the entry that much.

The A6 class – for the big GT3 cars – is down to a measly five cars, meaning that the distinction between A6-Pro and A6-Am will this weekend be blurred. In effect, there will be only one class; however, different balances of performance (BOP) will be applied as normal to provide entrants the opportunity to run as “Pro-BOP”, “Am-BOP-advantage” or “Am-BOP-neutral”. The evidence from previous races is that the only way that an “Am-BOP” car can win overall is if all – or should that be both? – the “Pro-BOP” cars strike problems.

That said, I’m hoping that the five cars that we do have will provide some good racing – they certainly provide variety enough with one each of Mercedes, Ferrari, Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini. Favourite in my book has to be the Precote Herberth Motorsport Porsche that has won the last three rounds of the Series in the hands of Alfred and Robert Renauer, Daniel Alleman and Ralf Bohn. The car has been perfectly prepared and the team’s races perfectly executed, so beating them is going to have to be done on pace.

Scuderia Praha has entered its Ferrari 488 GT3 – which, if it races, will be the first time this season that the latest Maranello product has competed in a Creventic-run race. I say if, because it looks to me as though Creventic’s Balance of Performance favours the normally-aspirated 458 GT3 over the turbo-charged 488. Certainly the 458 can match the pace of the 911, but will the 488 be able to repeat the team’s 2015 (12-hour) win this weekend?

If Scuderia Praha doesn’t, then who will? The Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Hurac├ín is probably the only candidate. The addition of Super GT hotshot Andrea Caldarelli won’t do the team’s chances any harm, but GRT will have to ensure reliability at least as good as the Barwell example managed at Barcelona in September.

Twenty-four hour races are always enthralling though. The challenge of getting to the finish is fascinating to watch, and if – make that when – races break out in the lower classes, for position, or even championship points, it is impossible not to get sucked into the story.

There are five 991 Cup Porsches to fight over class honours and there are three KTM X-Bows (one entered as an SP2 car and the other two in SP3) entered. Only two pukka entries are in each of the A2 and A3 classes, with the two BMW M235 cup cars being absorbed into class A3. but again, variety abounds with Ferrari, Audi, MARC Cars, BMW, Seat, Honda and Peugeot all being represented.

Perhaps the other talking point, as Creventic closes its books on what has been its most successful season so far, is the expansion planned for 2017. The team – or should I say ‘family’, for Creventic is without question the easiest group of people to work with in motor sport – has big plans for 2017, with a seven-round International Endurance Series headlined by GT3 cars, five rounds of the Touring Car Endurance Series as well as a yet-to-be-announced schedule of prototype races, commencing with three three-hour races in Dubai in January.

The world is, unfortunately, littered with examples of successful small enterprises that have grown too quickly, or too much, and have been unable to sustain their success. I sincerely hope that Creventic is not one of them, but the shift from what they currently do very well to what they think they can do sits uncomfortably with me.

And I hope that the relatively small size of the entry at Brno does not become regarded in the future as a symptom that failed to be recognised.